Odds and Ends Vol 36

Odds and Ends

I’m so tired. Part of it is being sick. But a bigger part is just mental fatigue. The world really sucks these days. Gone are the days of Trump gaslighting me. But it’s been replaced with most of the right doing something similar. We are still in the middle of a pandemic and they are denying it.

And the only “coming to Jesus” moments are from people like Dick Farrel below. Ron DeSantis will never admit that he was wrong. And I doubt seriously he will ever be punished. More likely, he will be rewarded. It’s just horrible. Speaking of which…

Political Hot Air Can Kill You

Right-wing radio talker Dick Farrel died of COVID-19 Friday. He was until recently very much against the vaccines. He called them “poison” and said, “I know I don’t need it nor ever will.” Well, after he got very sick, he changed his mind. You know: wisdom comes suddenly to some. And then they die.

Much has been made of how he told others to get the vaccine from what turned out to be his death bed. I have a bit of a problem with this. You spend months telling your very large audience not to get the vaccine. And then in your dying days you tell your close friends and family? That’s not really enough.

But I’m sorry for those who were close to him. It sucks to care about loud-mouth idiots.


If you look back at my writing on religion, you will find that in late 2014, I started moving away from the online atheist community. And it wasn’t just people like Sam Harris (or worse: The Amazing Atheist). Even people like Hemant Mehta, who was reasonably respectful of others, showed some pretty sloppy thinking.

But recently, I watched some videos by Genetically Modified Skeptic. I’m not that interested in his videos. But I do like that he is respectful of others and doesn’t seem to be engaged in culture war. And that’s all I really want. I don’t really care if people are Christians as long as it doesn’t get in the way of their lives. Humans are generally irrational and I don’t get upset that people believe foolish things. I’m sure I do too.

Via GMS, I discovered Paulogia, who creates videos I’m more interested in because I find textual analysis interesting even if it sometimes makes my brain hurt. But I couldn’t get into this if the tone of the videos weren’t respectful. Here’s a good example:

Another issue is that I do think that most people would be better off without their religious beliefs — especially considering how devoid most of them are of theology. But the only way to convince theists is to respect them — at least the ones who are honest and sincere.

So I hope that GMS and Paulogia are indications of the direction that the atheist/skeptic community is going.

(There is one thing I’m not too keen about with both these guys: their apparent admiration for Christopher Hitchens. He’s fine. He was a good rhetorician. But he was not a serious thinker and the atheist/skeptic community needs to move past him. He was a big part of what poisoned the community starting a decade ago.)

I also got reintroduced to Bart Ehrman whose book Misquoting Jesus had a huge effect on me. Here’s a lecture about it but the book is really worth reading:

Good Filmmaking vs Bad Filmmaking

Recently, I was watching M Night Shyamalan’s film The Happening and I came upon a featurette that explained how they had accomplished the “amazing” Jeep crash scene. And I thought: what bullshit! They spent a huge amount of time and money to create an absolutely boring scene in one shot that would have been better if they had created it via editing.

And it got me thinking about the amazing meathook scene in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. It’s done with just two camera set-ups and is incredibly effective. I’ve spoken to people who have never gotten over the scene decades after they saw it!

So I wrote an article comparing these two scenes. I’m pretty happy with it, so check it out: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre vs The Happening: Comparison of Two Scenes.

If We Were Treated Like We Treat Cuba

Janine Jackson made an excellent analogy to the way the US continues to treat Cuba and the way many have reacted to the pushback against our horrible international meddling.

Imagine if China used its power to cut off international trade to the US, including for things like medical equipment, because they didn’t like Joe Biden, and hoped that if enough Americans were made miserable, they would rise up against him, and install a leader China thought would better serve their interests. How would you think about Chinese media that said, “Well, we heard a lot of Americans say they were unhappy; they even marched in the street! Obviously, that was a call for foreign intervention from a country that understands democracy better than they do.”

And then what if some Chinese people said, “Wait, you can’t immiserate ordinary Americans to push them to overthrow their government; that’s illegal and immoral,” and other Chinese people explained, “You don’t get it; US politics are very complicated”?

COVID-19 Is Back

I used to check the CDC COVID-19 tracker every day. But a month ago, our 7-day running average of deaths got below 200 and I decided to stop. I shouldn’t have. I should have known that there are vested interests in this country that will keep this pandemic coming.

For almost a week now, our 7-day running average of deaths has been up over 400 with every sign of a continued trip upward. I think we are just going to have to get used to more people dying. And being vaccinated won’t help us. Soon, we will have a variant that isn’t controlled by the current vaccine.

And this is all because our authoritarian neighbors really want to make a statement. It boggles my mind that people are upset about mask mandates. How does this harm anyone? I can see people being upset that others don’t wear masks. But how did this minor inconvenience become a matter of “liberty”? (That’s a rhetorical question.)

For centuries, governments have taken extreme measures to fight pandemics. But suddenly, among the American right, doing anything at all is tyranny. It’s absurd.

Be Nice

I got some good feedback on this tweet over the weekend:

It’s weird to me. For one thing, these insults don’t even make sense. Sure, Apley was overweight but that wasn’t why he died. Ben Shapiro isn’t that short. And I don’t know why anyone claims Melania Trump is a slut.

But that isn’t the point. I don’t believe in shaming anyone for these things, right or wrong. And I don’t think people on the left think we should either. I just think it’s easy. But we should stop.

One person replied, “But Melani Trump is easy, cruel, and off-point.” But she thought better of it and later deleted it. If you are going to be offensive, at least be funny.

2 thoughts on “Odds and Ends Vol 36

  1. I’ve seen The Texas Chainsaw Massacre twice. Once in high school, and this last summer. My daughter Olivia likes horror movies. I didn’t like it either time. I’m sure part of that is because others have plundered it so extensively over the years that nothing in it seemed new. But I watched it more critically with Olivia, and I could see the director really was trying to be artistic. There’s a long shot of an eyeball that comes to mind. And it didn’t seem excessive. But I do think the main problem with the film is that the director doesn’t have enough material. The recipe calls for a cup of creativity and he’s got two thirds. And it’s only 83 minutes of runtime. Specifically, the scene of the murder family cackling and pawing at the girl was well more than twice as long than it needed to be. There are obvious threads they could have gone with to flesh out the story. The cannibal barf-BQ they sell at the store could have been a good ten minutes of runtime if you set it up and paid it off with the reveal of what it was. That and the teens who get killed are not well written. The dialogue is bad. Without the chainsaw gimmick, nobody remembers this film.
    My favorite horror film, and I’m not really enamored of the genre, is The Thing, from John Carpenter. Olivia and I watched that over the summer as well. A few years ago, when the prequel was released, I looked up some clips of it on YT. I had only ever seen it on VHS and lo def TV. And it was twice as gross as I remembered. My first real horror movie scare, aside from when my sister and I snuck into Jaws, was when my older brother showed me the part of Scanners where the guy’s head explodes. I wasn’t ready for it.

    • I could go on and on about Chain Saw. Let me just say that the film plays masterfully with terror and humor. The terror is so intense that no one notices it the first time they see it. Or the tenth! But that whole scene with the family is very funny once you get used to it. So is Leatherface’s consternation that these people keep showing up at the house that he will now need to slaughter. It also has a strong anti-meat theme. I think the characters are good. It’s rare that I find college students in a horror film anything but annoying. I especially like the relationship between Sally and Franklin. It strikes me as very real. And I think it was a brilliant idea to have a handicapped character and to make him unlikeable. But he’s real. I’d be exactly that way if I were confined to a wheelchair in that environment. The film also features amazing art direction. The chicken room scene still really bothers me. And I introduced a friend to the film recently and about halfway through the family dinner scene she said, “Oh! There are arms under her arms!” Yes, there are…

      The Thing is one of my favorite films. It’s got a great script (By Burt Lancaster’s son who also wrote The Bad News Bears!) and I love the practical effects. And the acting is wonderful. If you like it, I recommend my favorite Carpenter film, In the Mouth of Madness. That’s so much fun! It’s very Lovecraftian. For some reason, it never took off. But I’m not alone in loving it.

      There have two films in my life that gave me nightmares for years. The first was The Last Man on Earth, which was simply the result of having absent parents and an older sister who let me watch it when I was 5. I also found The House on Haunted Hill terrifying. And Bride of Frankenstein! It’s funny because I find them all kind of sweet now. Anyway, the other one was Jaws. That’s a great film! So much better than the book! Also: Scanners is really good. It’s not my favorite of Cronenberg. That would be eXistenZ but I also love Crash, Videodrome, and The Fly. Although truthfully, I’m very fond of his work generally.

      Okay. I’ve rambled enough!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.